As Expected: Covington HS Teen's Lawsuit Against The Washington Post Is Dismissed

from the with-prejudice dept

This was not unexpected. As we easily predicted back when it was filed, Nick Sandmann -- the MAGA red hat wearing teenager from Covington Catholic High School who was briefly at the center of a viral social media Rorschach test -- has now lost his laughably bad defamation lawsuit against the Washington Post. As we pointed out, he never alleged any actual defamation, and federal Judge William Bertelsman did not seem at all pleased with Sandmann's legal arguments.

As Bertelsman notes, at this stage (the motion to dismiss stage), all he needs to do is see whether or not an actual claim has been presented: were statements of fact made about Sandmann that were defamatory. There's plenty of explanatory text before we get to the crux:

... the statements that Sandmann challenges constitute protected opinions that may not form the basis for a defamation claim.

That's it. That's really all that matters here. The court goes into some more details to explain this, even though it's barely even necessary. However, as an example:

First, statements 1-3, 10, 13, 16, 17 are not actionable because they do not state or imply "actual, objectively verifiable facts."...

Instead, these statements contain terms such as "ugly," "swarmed," "taunting," "disrespect," "ignored," "aggressive," "physically," and "rambunctious." These are all examples of "loose, figurative," "rhetorical hyperbole" that is protected by the First Amendment because it is not "susceptible of being proved true or false."

This is the crux of basically all defamation law and why this case was going to lose from the beginning.

The above terms are also "inherently subjective," like "dirtiest"... or "squandered" and "broke," ... all of which are "not so definite or precise as to be branded as false."

There's a lot more along those lines, highlighting how you can't just take vaguely negative statements implying something and declare them defamatory. From there, it gets even worse. The judge notes that even if these were negative statements about Sandmann "there is no allegation of special damages," which dooms the case a second time. The court also calls out Sandmann's legal claims as overstating (by a lot) what the Washington Post actually did.

Finally, the article does not state that Sandmann "engaged in racist taunts." The article makes vague reference to teens and other participants "taunting" the "indigenous crowd" and them merely states that "[a] few people . . . began to chant build that wall," a political statement on an issue of public debate and often associated with party affiliation. This is not defamatory.

Even if false, attributing to an individual "membership in a political party in the United States that is a mainstream party and not at odds with the fundamental social order is not defamatory."

And thus, the case is dismissed, with prejudice.

The Court accepts Sandmann's statement that, when he was standing motionless in the confrontation with Phillips, his intent was to calm the situation and not impede or block anyone.

However, Phillips did not see it that way. He concluded that he was being "blocked" and not allowed to "retreat." He passed these conclusions on to the Post. They may have been erroneous, but, as discussed above, they are opinion protected by the First Amendment. And the Post is not liabile for publishing these opinions, for the reasons discussed in this Opinion.

We see so many of these lawsuits these days, where people insist that saying something that you don't like is somehow defamatory. That's not how it works. Of course, it would have been nice if Kentucky had an anti-SLAPP law (it has none) or if there were a federal anti-SLAPP law (there is not) to discourage this kind of frivolous, free speech chilling, lawsuit.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, convington catholic high school, defamation, free speech, nick sandmann, reporting
Companies: washington post


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 12:27pm

    Between lawyer fees and the cost of the PR firm Sandmann's parents hired, I'd say justice has been served.

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 12:32pm

    It was DISGUSTING what these Leftist so-called News channels did. Cutting the clip to fit their narrative. It wasn't news. It was attacking a kid that did nothing wrong. I know they filed a number of cases, this is just one of them.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 12:38pm

      Re:

      Themes some sour ass grapes hamilton. Has any case you’ve ever supported not gone down like your mom in Richard Brandon’s convertible?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 29 Jul 2019 @ 12:45pm

      Re:

      The suit was dismissed - with prejudice. So any further suits would be frowned upon. (They could file a completely different suit, but the new judge will look at this case.)
      The article includes quotes from people who were actually on the scene who backed up the article. So the coverage wasn't as biased as you are making it out.

      Of course the kids were bused in to slut-shame pregnant women so we know their motives were pure.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 29 Jul 2019 @ 12:47pm

      I know they filed a number of cases

      If they’re all as bad as this one, they’ll all fail like this one.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 1:06pm

        Re: I’m with ya hamilton no iceberg is big enough!!!

        Oh I hoped they filed a bunch and the donations run out and actually have to suffer financial consequences for their actions as social shaming haven’t seemed to work.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 1:05pm

      Re:

      It was DISGUSTING what these Leftist so-called News channels did.

      Perhaps you can go on twitter and whine with the "president" about it. I mean, that's all you guys do, right? Whine? You don't do anything, but you've sure got the whining down pat.

      Poor, poor, over privileged white kids. When will they ever catch a break?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 2:13pm

      Re:

      We see so many of these lawsuits these days, where special snowflakes on the far right insist that saying something that you don't like is somehow defamatory.

      Fixed that for the author.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Jul 2019 @ 1:26pm

    Is this a premature decision?

    My argument here is poached from Viva Frie, who does a much better job of explaining the potential issues with this dismissal. The main crux of the argument is that when there's a dismissal, there's no evidence. Dismissals are based solely on agreed upon facts of the case. This dismissal, however, appears to be based on what should have been admitted as evidence.

    The decision seems to hinge on evidence that had not yet been adduced. For example, as you note above, the court cites how Phillips felt during the incident, but it's not like the court is basing that on any sort of testimony given by Phillips. The court also seems to be overextending its dismissal of the language that's used; I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility that the court might be able to determine whether someone is being "swarmed" by a crowd, just as the court seems to be perfectly fine with accepting that Phillips felt like he was "blocked" by Sandmann. Likewise I don't think it's necessarily outside the realm of possibility that a court could come up with reasonable thresholds for what might constitute "taunting" or "aggressive." Or maybe the judge is right and the court can't figure that out. To be fair, I do agree that these are terms that are not easily defined and are therefore matters of opinion, but the point is that determination ought to have made in court after reviewing the evidence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      TKnarr (profile), 29 Jul 2019 @ 1:43pm

      Re: Is this a premature decision?

      The evidence was adduced in the Post article itself. Phillips stated what he felt at that time, and it's not within the court's purview to say he didn't really feel that way. Whether his feelings were reasonable might be something the court could rule on, but for defamation that's irrelevant. If your feeling is completely irrational and unreasonable you're still entitled to say you felt that way and your statement of how you felt can't be defamatory to the other party.

      Note that saying how you felt is something different from falsely saying the other party did some specific thing to make you feel that way, but Sandmann couldn't point to anything Phillips said he did that he didn't clearly do.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 29 Jul 2019 @ 2:45pm

      Re: Is this a premature decision?

      My argument here is poached from Viva Frie, who does a much better job of explaining the potential issues with this dismissal. The main crux of the argument is that when there's a dismissal, there's no evidence.

      Or no accusation of anything illegal.

      If I sue you for putting a funny hat on your dog, my suit is going to be dismissed. Even if I have 100% ironclad proof that you put a funny hat on your dog. Because putting funny hats on dogs is not actually illegal. The evidence doesn't matter if the thing I am accusing you of is not illegal. I can refer to putting a funny hat on your dog as "arson" if I want, but that's not the legal definition of arson.

      Similarly, if I were to say "Nick Sandmann is a big stupid doodoo head," and Nick Sandmann were to sue me for defamation, that suit would be dismissed. Because even if I did say that about him, calling someone a big stupid doodoo head is not defamatory.

      Which is more or less what happened here. The judge determined that even if 100% of the accusations in the lawsuit were 100% true, none of them broke any laws.

      There's no need to make any determinations about evidence if the plaintiff is accusing the defendant of doing things that are legal. The judge doesn't need to go to trial and put my photos of you putting a funny hat on your dog before a jury, so they can evaluate whether or not you really put that funny hat on your dog, thereby committing arson. The judge can just say "that's not what 'arson' means" and dismiss the case. At that point, whether or not I can prove you put a funny hat on your dog is irrelevant.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 29 Jul 2019 @ 5:04pm

      Re: Is this a premature decision?

      The main crux of the argument is that when there's a dismissal, there's no evidence. Dismissals are based solely on agreed upon facts of the case. This dismissal, however, appears to be based on what should have been admitted as evidence.

      I can't believe I just sat down and watched that entire video. I've never heard of that guy and have no idea his experience in defamation cases, but his analysis seems very, very flawed. His description seems to confuse some of the basics of civil procedure in such cases, focusing on the standards in a motion to dismiss and arguing that the case should have moved further on.

      But, as the judge correctly noted, even assuming that everything in the original claims are accurate, there still is not enough to state a claim of defamation, and that's why it's entirely proper to dismiss at this stage.

      The analysis by that lawyer feels a lot more like wishful thinking from someone who wanted the case to at least go further into the process.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 29 Jul 2019 @ 10:04pm

        Re: Re: Is this a premature decision?

        Oh dear God.

        A quick search for "Viva Frei" pulls up the following results:

        Mueller's Press Conference Raises SERIOUS Questions

        Why Twitter is Poking the Legal Bear

        Is YouTube a PLATFORM or a PUBLISHER? A Lawyer Breaks It All Down.

        Cham-pain! Father finds the most middle class way to remove his daughter’s friend's tooth – by using the cork from a bottle of fizz ("He has previously videoed tooth pull videos using a drone and a squirrel")

        And while he does appear to be a lawyer, his practice is in Montreal.

        Not to say that there aren't Canadians who are well-versed in US law, but...this man does not appear to be one of them.

        I don't have a lot of faith in his credentials as a dentist, either.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 10:10pm

          Re: Re: Re: Is this a premature decision?

          He sounds like a lawyer joke somehow got it’s wish to become a real attorney at law.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Mike Masnick (profile), 30 Jul 2019 @ 12:06am

          Re: Re: Re: Is this a premature decision?

          LOL.

          Now I watched his "Is YouTube a platform or a publisher" video and whooo boy. He should get a refund on his legal degree. He jumps back and forth between CDA 230 and DMCA 512, which is fine on its own, but he does it in a misleading way. Because you can lose DMCA 512 protections, he acts as if there are similar conditions under which you can "lose" CDA 230 protections, but that's not how it works.

          He also COMPLETELY ignores (c)(2) of CDA 230 which is the part where sites are encouraged to moderate content and are told that they will not be held liable for doing so -- and instead pretends that doing moderation somehow puts them at risk of losing 230 immunity, which is literally the opposite of what the law says.

          Yikes.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 30 Jul 2019 @ 2:40am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Is this a premature decision?

            ...Holy shit you guys, I think we found John Smith!

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          • icon
            Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Jul 2019 @ 4:09am

            Re: Viva Frie CDA 230 position

            Yeah, I've been pretty critical in his comments section of his CDA 230 stuff. I think he gets it completely wrong.

            In fairness to him, he seems to offer somewhat of a conceit in a later video where he acknowledges that the point of CDA 230 is to encourage moderation, but then he doubles down on his argument that CDA 230 immunity can be revoked. He cites case law, but when I looked into it, it seemed pretty weak.

            MCW v Badbusinessbureau.com—Filed December 2002, in the Northern District of Texas District Court under cause number 3:06cv0179. There is a valuable opinion from this unpublished case that states [company founder] Magedson is not entitled CDA immunity to the extent that he is developing and creating “report titles, headings, and some of the defamatory messages posted on the websites.” Case closed and the report is still online with no rebuttal.

            Source

            Frie seems to attempt to argue that Magedson's editorialization of comments left on the site constitute a form of moderation, and therefore certain forms of moderation can lead to the courts revoking CDA 230 immunity. I remain unconvinced of his argument.

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            • icon
              Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Jul 2019 @ 4:33am

              Re: Re: Viva Frie CDA 230 position

              "...he seems to offer somewhat of a conceit..." -- oops, I meant "concession." I'll pretend it was autocorrect.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              That One Guy (profile), 30 Jul 2019 @ 4:33am

              Re: Re: Viva Frie CDA 230 position

              Frie seems to attempt to argue that Magedson's editorialization of comments left on the site constitute a form of moderation, and therefore certain forms of moderation can lead to the courts revoking CDA 230 immunity. I remain unconvinced of his argument.

              Yeah, unless the moderator is writing those defamatory messages, I don't see that one working out, as while 230 protects against content posted by a third party it doesn't shield a site/moderator from content that they create or are significantly involved in creating themselves.

              However that still wouldn't be 'revocation' of 230 protections, it would instead be dealing with content that 230 simply doesn't cover and therefore wasn't protected by from the start. You can't 'revoke' a protection that wasn't there to begin with.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Jul 2019 @ 4:31am

        Re: Re: Is this a premature decision?

        Thanks for the clarification, and thanks to everyone else. As a non-lawyer, I don't always recognize the weaknesses in legal arguments. But that's also why I tried to frame my comment as more inquisitive than conclusive.

        I think some of you guys are being a little too hard on the guy, though. I don't think it's fair to suggest that he's a terrible or unqualified lawyer. Yikes. But maybe I'm just biased because I'm a fan of the dude's content.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 30 Jul 2019 @ 4:46am

          Re: Re: Re: Is this a premature decision?

          I think some of you guys are being a little too hard on the guy, though. I don't think it's fair to suggest that he's a terrible or unqualified lawyer.

          Terrible? Not really enough to say either way at this point, though based upon the two comments above it doesn't look too good.

          However if he's getting basic things wrong on the subjects he's covering then I'd say it's fair to say he's unqualified to give anything more than 'this is how I think the law should be...' statements regarding those subjects, as good or even accurate legal advice/discussion that is not.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          bhull242 (profile), 2 Aug 2019 @ 1:59pm

          Re: Re: Re: Is this a premature decision?

          I think it’s less of a “bad lawyer” and more “a Canadian lawyer discussing US law in a way that suggests ignorance of US law”. Since he’s a Canadian lawyer, his ignorance regarding US law is understandable and does not shape my opinion of him as a lawyer. He may be well versed in Canadian law.

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          • icon
            Thad (profile), 5 Aug 2019 @ 7:52am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Is this a premature decision?

            If a lawyer has a side business publicly opining about laws in a country whose laws he does not understand, then he meets my standard for "bad lawyer".

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 1:38pm

    Media

    If media actually cared about reputation anymore, things like this wouldn't happen. But shoddy journalism used to drive peoples emotions and further a narrative seems to be par for the course these days.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 29 Jul 2019 @ 1:48pm

      Re: Media

      Well thankfully you still have InfoWars to tell it to you straight, eh?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 2:10pm

        Re: Re: Media

        At lease infowars didn't spend years trying to sell a fake story about russian collusion, so they are already ahead of MSNPC and CNN.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 2:17pm

          Re: Re: Re: Media

          You... They... What? Everything Infowars peddles is false. Everything.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 2:20pm

          Re: Re: Re: Media

          Selling snake oil male virility pills to paranoid racists and conspiracy theorists is better?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 29 Jul 2019 @ 2:21pm

          InfoWars did spend a lot of time pushing the notion that Sandy Hook was a “false flag operation” and those who died were mere “crisis actors”. Unlike the Mueller investigation, InfoWars had no proof of their claims being even remotely factual.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 2:30pm

          Re: Have you tried digging up bro?

          You really want to go there? Ok we can go there. They did spend years however downplaying the cold hard facts, the many of Donnie’s inner circle were/are in bed literally and figuratively with known Putin operatives. I mean it’s not like several of his people had to recuse themselves or went to jail for lying about working with the Russians. And just remember the whole Fusion GPS thing was originally paid for by GOP operatives and Mueller is a lifelong republican. So apparently “fake” means facts that you don’t. Shit you’re probably dumb enough to still buy into all that birther garbage.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 29 Jul 2019 @ 2:39pm

            Quoting at length from The Weekly Sift:

            From the beginning of the Trump/Russia investigation, I’ve had two questions about the Trump campaign and Trump transition team:

            • Why did Trump’s people have so many interactions with Russian officials, Russian oligarchs, and other people connected to Vladimir Putin?
            • When they were asked about those interactions, why did they all lie?

            Those two questions have formed my standard of judgment ever since: If I ever felt like I could confidently answer them, I would believe we had gotten to the bottom of things.

            I don’t think we have good answers to those questions even now.

            I can imagine a relatively innocent answer for the first one: The Russians were trying to infiltrate the campaign, so they repeatedly contacted Trump’s people. But that answer just makes the second question more difficult, because then Trump’s people could have given perfectly innocent answers, like: “I wondered about that at the time. It seemed so weird that these Russians kept wanting to talk to me.” It would have been so easy to say: “Yeah, I talked to the guy, but I never figured out exactly what he wanted. I had a bad feeling about it, though, so I didn’t see him again.” Instead, they either made false denials, manufactured false cover stories, or developed a convenient amnesia around all things Russian.

            Why? Innocent people don’t act that way.

            Trump and his defenders have not offered an answer of any kind about the lying, and instead have done everything possible to distract us the question. All the wild conspiracy theories about the Steele dossier, the “angry Democrats” in Mueller’s office, Mueller’s supposed “conflicts”, the “witch hunt”, and so forth — it all has nothing to do with the two basic questions: Why meet with so many Russians? Why lie about it?

            We still don’t know.

            […] One reason we don’t know more about those questions is that President Trump obstructed the investigation. This is pretty clear if you read the Mueller report: Volume 2 examines ten instances that might be obstruction, and finds all three elements of the definition of obstruction in seven of them.

            (Source)

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Jul 2019 @ 12:00am

      Re: On second thought maybe you should stick to the birther crap

      Wait, so what you are saying is if the media cared about it’s reputation this dipshit wouldn’t have been forced to destroy what’s left of his reputation by filing an utterly doomed lawsuit, because of reasons.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    Johnny Colburn, 29 Jul 2019 @ 3:02pm

    Leftist article

    As usual techdirt takes the defense of a leftish Jimmy Carter appointed judge then admitting the truth. This is why the right as to go to the source and start dealing with reporters like some of the garbage that lying techdirt writes. Anti police, anti family, anti gun, that is leftdirt. Silicon Valley funded.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 29 Jul 2019 @ 3:17pm

      the right [has] to go to the source

      The Washington Post did go to the source, though — the source being Nathan Phillips, who described to WaPo how he felt that day during the standoff with Nick Sandmann. Everything Phillips said to WaPo was his opinion of what happened, not WaPo’s. WaPo can’t be considered “guilty” of defamation if it didn’t defame anyone, and Phillips’s statements were protected opinion that WaPo reprinted and attributed to him.

      Whether you agree with Phillips or side with Sandmann is irrelevant to the matter. The court ruled, correctly, that WaPo didn’t print a goddamn thing that could count as defamatory in this case. If you can explain how any part of the court’s ruling that could (or should) be overturned on appeal, I would sure as shit love to see you pull off that magic trick.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 29 Jul 2019 @ 3:24pm

      Re: Leftist article

      This is why the right as to go to the source and start dealing with reporters like some of the garbage

      Yes, we understand that Putin is in bed with Trump, who wants to jail/kill his critics like Putin does. No bad news if there is no news, right?

      Why do Trumnpers get their diapers in such a bunch so badly that they have to start threatening free speech the moment someone starts fact-checking?

      https://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/statements/byruling/false/

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 3:27pm

      Re: Blueballs is sore

      Thems grapes is almost as bitter as Hamilton’s. You got anything but whining there bro? No didn’t think so. Now piss off, the adults are talking.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 4:59pm

      Re: Leftist article

      As usual techdirt takes the defense of a leftish

      As usual, trolls will come trolling and can't refute the facts of the article but come in and pull some stupid political team argument instead and insist that the Judge is wrong as he was appointed by somebody on the wrong team.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 29 Jul 2019 @ 5:34pm

        They could at least come up with new school-yard insults...

        When the law is on your side, pound on the law.

        When the facts are on your side, pound on the facts.

        When neither the law or the facts are on your side, make childish, tribalistic accusations/insults and hope that that distracts from how you've got no credible counter-argument.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Jul 2019 @ 10:55pm

      Re: It belongs in a museum

      Is that an honest to goodness whataboutCarter in the wild?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    John Carroll, 29 Jul 2019 @ 6:36pm

    Please

    Infowars reported on NSA spying way before techdirt did which is why people heard of infowars but NEVER HEARD OF TECHDIRT. TECHDIRT IS LEFTIST TECH TALK. SILICON VALLEY IS AN ADMITTED TECH INDUSTRY AND TECHDIRT IS A SPONSERED SILICON VALLEY LEFT WING WEBPAGE. THAT IS THE FACTS. TECHDIRT LIES, JUST ASK RON WYDEN

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 8:03pm

      Re: Why don’t you go back with “those” people

      Sir, I’m sorry but I’m going to have to ask you not to use the CAPS LOCK key as we can’t understand what you are trying to say. Perhaps you would be better off back at infowars as you don’t seem to have the social skills we require of below average twelve year old.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 11:36pm

      Re: Please

      "SILICON VALLEY IS AN ADMITTED TECH INDUSTRY"

      lol

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Jul 2019 @ 5:32am

      Re: Please

      SILICON VALLEY IS AN ADMITTED TECH INDUSTRY

      You don't say? What are you gonna tell us next?

      It's in California?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2019 @ 8:18am

      Re:

      Infowars reported on NSA spying way before techdirt did

      As far as I'm aware they didn't, actually. I'm not able to find any stories from them on it before the Snowden leaks.

      And even if they did, it wouldn't have been because they had actual evidence of that or actually thought it was really going on. They just made it up out of thin air because it made for a good conspiracy theory story, which is what the entire site is about.

      If you make up enough crap, eventually something will resemble something in real life.

      why people heard of infowars but NEVER HEARD OF TECHDIRT

      Lots of people have heard of TD. More people have heard of Alex Jones and Infowars because he's a nut-job, con man whose only claim to fame is peddling conspiracy theories; outrageously priced questionable health supplements; screaming "they're making the frogs gay!"; and because he got national attention after he claimed that the Sandyhook shootings were faked, claimed no children actually died, accused all the grief stricken parents of being government paid actors and incited many of his followers to subsequently threaten the lives of the grieving families.

      Seriously, there is not one honest bone in the guy's entire body. The sad thing is, he's been running such a long con, he's gone native and has started to believe the crap himself.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    John Carroll, 29 Jul 2019 @ 6:41pm

    Please

    I should mention after CISPA passed to protect cyber security TECHDIRT CRIED HOW YOU GOING TO BE ARRRESTED AND IT WOULD WRECK THE INTERNET..... WHAN NOTHING HAPPENED BECAUSE CREDO MOBILE AND OTHER LEFT WING RADICAL SILICON VALLEY GROUPS PAID THEM TO LIE. FACTS ARE FACTS. NAME ONE NEWS STORY OF SOMEONE INNOCENT BEING TARGATED BECAUSE OF CISPA. NEVER HAPPPENED, JUST MORE LEFT WING UNRESPONSIBLE NEWS BY THIS LEFT WING NEWS SITE.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 29 Jul 2019 @ 7:03pm

      Who paid you to write this crap? I want to tell them that they’re not getting their money’s worth out of the deal.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 8:05pm

      Re: Please

      I should mention after CISPA passed

      When did this happen? When did CISPA pass?

      That's right, it didn't. It got shot down a half-dozen times, and then finally died an ignoble death.

      So while you're right that no one is ever going to find one news story of someone innocent being "TARGATED" because of CISPA, it's because CISPA doesn't actually exist as a law that can be enforced.

      Also, I suggest you take your keyboard back to the manufacturer: it looks like one or both of your Shift keys is broken (or perhaps your Caps Lock). It's putting your whole post into caps and making you look like a deranged conspiracy theorist.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2019 @ 8:09pm

      Re: UNRESPONSIBLE is not an actual word.

      Sir I’m going to have to stop you again. You’ve been warned about CAPS LOCK. But also in this case I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to look up the meaning of the word citation and write a new post (sans caps, sans means without) about how the use of such, would substantially (that means a whole lot) increase the readability of your posts.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Jul 2019 @ 5:34am

      Re: Please

      I should mention after CISPA passed

      CISPA didn't pass. You shouldn't have mentioned it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 29 Jul 2019 @ 9:01pm

    Always good to have a reminder that just because there's a lawsuit, doesn't mean there's merit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Zof (profile), 30 Jul 2019 @ 5:36am

    The Important Thing Is

    America still got to see what unethical pieces of shit Amazon's Blog (formerly the Washington Post) are. That's what's really important. We saw wapo misrespresent and attack a kid and make themselves look like the racist, race-baiting shitrag they are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 30 Jul 2019 @ 5:55am

      And that makes them any different from our current sitting president…how, exactly?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 30 Jul 2019 @ 6:01am

      Re: The Important Thing Is

      Amazon's Blog (formerly the Washington Post)

      [Asserts facts not in evidence]

      We saw wapo misrespresent and attack a kid and make themselves look like the racist, race-baiting shitrag they are.

      [Asserts facts not in evidence]

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Toom1275 (profile), 30 Jul 2019 @ 6:13am

        Re: Re: The Important Thing Is

        Let's see, who's more trustworthy?

        An independent entity with investigative reporters and in-house fact checkers, that stands to lose much if they were to ever publish a falsehood, and thus take great pains to achieve truthfulness amd accuracy (as we saw with Projecting Falsitas's failed sting attempt)...

        Or the dime-a-dozen liar-for-hire propaganda laundering bloggers Zof favors?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Jul 2019 @ 8:02am

      Re: The Important Thing Is

      The Important Thing Is

      ...you guys got more stuff to whine, complain, and do nothing about!

      Impotence abound from the president on down! And I'm right here to laugh at you and wash my balls with your conservative tears.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Jul 2019 @ 12:53pm

      Re: The Important Thing Is

      Why you still here bro?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2019 @ 8:22am

      Re:

      America still got to see what unethical pieces of shit Amazon's Blog (formerly the Washington Post) are.

      That's more important than upholding the right to freedom of speech? Get your priorities straight.

      We saw wapo misrespresent and attack a kid and make themselves look like the racist, race-baiting shitrag they are.

      When did this happen? They reported the facts as well as opinions of some people who were present. They didn't attack anyone and as far as I know and it was the right-wing outlets that made it up into an "attack" on the kid.

      Weren't you leaving and never coming back?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jul 2019 @ 6:47am

    "membership in a political party in the United States that is a mainstream party and not at odds with the fundamental social order is not defamatory." Actually, I think the judge just flubbed and opened up a giant hole for an appeal right here. All the teen needs to show is that the republican party is at odd with the fundamental social order (which looking at the actions of republicans in charge, for the last 10-18 years (especially the last 3-4 years), I think a reasonable juror could be lead to believe), and the original statements leading to this belief are then defamatory.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Jul 2019 @ 6:55am

      Re:

      Sadly, the fact that 30% of Americans are willing to vote for authoritarianism, regardless of the damage it causes, makes me think that finding enough reasonable jurors to secure such a judgement might not be possible.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 30 Jul 2019 @ 10:00am

      All the teen needs to show is that the republican party is at odd with the fundamental social order […] and the original statements leading to this belief are then defamatory.

      The GOP isn’t at odds with the fundamental social order. If it was, it wouldn’t have control of nearly every branch of the federal government — or be in a position to have such control.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stephen Roberts, 30 Jul 2019 @ 9:41am

    This was never about the lawsuit

    This was never about the lawsuit and I suspect everyone involved knew they never stood a chance.

    This suit was all about getting the lawyer's and plaintiff's foot in the door of the far-right outrage machine. They are going to make plenty of money with speaking fees and appearance fees detailing how they were "Denied Justice!" and railing against "the Deep State(tm)" and "Liberal Media(tm)".

    This was never about the Washington Post and was always about milking the poor dupes on the right who will eat this up as proof of their twisted world view.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Thad (profile), 2 Aug 2019 @ 8:48am

    8 Covington Catholic Teens Sue ‘Most Egregious High-Profile Individuals’ for Defamation

    The defendants have been named as follows (Law&Crime is not including a copy of the lawsuit here so as not publicize their addresses): 2020 presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico), CNN’s Ana Navarro, Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, comedian Kathy Griffin, ABC New political analyst Matthew Dowd, Reza Aslan (formerly of CNN), Kentucky entrepreneur Adam Edelen, Princeton University History Professor Kevin M. Kruse, activist and journalist Shaun King, Mother Jones editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery and Rewire.News editor-in-chief Jodi Jacobson.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

The Last Word

Re: Is this a premature decision?

My argument here is poached from Viva Frie, who does a much better job of explaining the potential issues with this dismissal. The main crux of the argument is that when there's a dismissal, there's no evidence.

Or no accusation of anything illegal.

If I sue you for putting a funny hat on your dog, my suit is going to be dismissed. Even if I have 100% ironclad proof that you put a funny hat on your dog. Because putting funny hats on dogs is not actually illegal. The evidence doesn't matter if the thing I am accusing you of is not illegal. I can refer to putting a funny hat on your dog as "arson" if I want, but that's not the legal definition of arson.

Similarly, if I were to say "Nick Sandmann is a big stupid doodoo head," and Nick Sandmann were to sue me for defamation, that suit would be dismissed. Because even if I did say that about him, calling someone a big stupid doodoo head is not defamatory.

Which is more or less what happened here. The judge determined that even if 100% of the accusations in the lawsuit were 100% true, none of them broke any laws.

There's no need to make any determinations about evidence if the plaintiff is accusing the defendant of doing things that are legal. The judge doesn't need to go to trial and put my photos of you putting a funny hat on your dog before a jury, so they can evaluate whether or not you really put that funny hat on your dog, thereby committing arson. The judge can just say "that's not what 'arson' means" and dismiss the case. At that point, whether or not I can prove you put a funny hat on your dog is irrelevant.

—Thad

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